To a casual observer, the agenda of the last meeting of the Legacy User Group might have seemed a little incongruous. The first item was a discussion of the likely release date for Version 9 of the software. This was followed by an in-depth examination of a feature that has been present since (at least) Version 6 but which very few of the members had used much. How can we possibly justify buying a new version of the program if we are not making full use of what we already have? Surely serious-minded family history researchers do not get caught up in the marketing hype.
Apart from the practical considerations of bug fixes, stability, on-going support and enhancements to features we do use, there is a very strong reason to move on from a version whose possibilities we have not yet exhausted. You are not meant to use all the features of genealogy software.
Like other productivity software (such as the various Office suites) there is more built into each version of Legacy than any one person could (or should) ever use. Anyone trying to exploit every module, function and feature would find themselves fitting in some family research around their software use in order to feed the program’s insatiable demand for data instead of using (selected parts of) the software to support their research. If our interests lie in genealogy rather than computer science, then we need to keep this particular dog and his tail in the correct arrangement.
In essence there are three golden rules that we need to follow as responsible users of family history software.
1 Use all of its useful features (for our purposes) to their fullest extent.
2 Do not be distracted by bells and whistles that do not add value.
3 Make informed decisions about the difference.
But surely this is an impossible requirement. How can we be certain that the silver bullet that will transform the way in which we work and lead to the destruction of any number of brick walls is not resting behind the very next menu icon?
The difference between a core function and a distracting frill might not be obvious until you have used it for a period of time. Certainly time spent squeezing your data into a form demanded by an output you will never use is time wasted; but is that any worse than struggling with a jury-rigged procedure to (almost) achieve a result that the software could do with ease (if only you were aware of it)?
Actually there is a fourth golden rule: Draw on the experience of others. The best way to determine if Historical Timelines will be the killer feature in your Family File is to join a conversation with someone who uses them regularly and someone else who chooses not to. Remember that modern computer software lets you apply the same error to hundreds of records in the blink of an eye. Learning from my mistakes is an important part of how I improve my practice, but I find the blunders of others equally educative and much less stressful.
But where can you find these paragons who are happy to describe their failures as readily as their successes; to share their expertise to support the research of others; to delve into the barely-travelled by-ways of the program to ensure that no hidden gems are overlooked? At the Society’s bi-monthly User Group meetings of course.
Come along and see how you can get more out of your software with less effort. Our agenda may appear a little strange at first, but we think you will find method in our madness.
About the author – Bob McAllister:
Monday 30 January is the fifth Monday in 2017. Where has the holiday break gone? More significantly it is the fifth Monday in this month; and the fifth Monday of each month is when responsibility for the GSQ Blog is passed to a ‘guest’ blogger instead one of the regular contributors you may have been expecting. Your author today is Bob McAllister and for the last few months, I have been the convenor of the Legacy Users Interest Group. So when I was offered the chance to pen a few words, my mind turned to our most recent meeting.